TAMPA - No. 17 USF's talented trio of pitchers shut down Villanova's offense while the Bulls' bats heated up late in a 4-0 victory in game 2 of Saturday's doubleheader.
Starter Lindsey Richardson, Sara Nevins and Sam Greiner combined on a three-hit shutout a game after Nevins tossed seven strong innings in a 2-1 victory over the Wildcats at USF softball stadium.
"If you can give three different looks in one game it's kind of tough," head coach Ken Eriksen said. "I thought they did a nice job of diversifying the style against Villanova today."
USF (43-8, 15-3) has won three straight and moved within a half game of Louisville at the top of the Big East standings. Kourtney Salvarola helped out the cause by going 2-for-2 with three RBIs and Stephanie Medina knocked in the Bulls' other run in a 1-for-3 performance. Senior Janine Richardson went 1-for-2 and scored two runs to help the Bulls improve to 28-2 this season.
The Salvarola-Richardson combo was responsible for USF's first two runs of the game. Richardson led off the second with a single and jetted around to third after a throwing error on the play. Salvarola followed by driving a 1-2 pitch to left field for an RBI sacrifice fly that easily scored Richardson.
Richardson was back on base in the fourth after getting hit by a pitch and the speedy center fielder moved over to second with a steal. Salvarola singled past the shortstop, right in front of Richardson in stride, to give the Bulls the two-run cushion.
Nevins replaced Lindsey Richardson with one on and two out in the fifth before getting the Bulls out of the frame on her first pitch when Ali Lowe popped out to Jessica Mouse at third base.
The Bulls' bats had two hits going into the sixth and ended up tripling the total in a two-run inning. Gina Kafalas led off with a single, moved over to second on a sacrifice and made it home on a single by Medina. Salvarola's productive day at the plate was complete with an RBI single.
"I think hitting is contagious. I think once some people start hitting, the whole team starts hitting," Salvarola said.
Greiner pitched a perfect seventh inning to seal the victory after Lindsey Richardson (9-0) gave the Bulls a big lift at the beginning. The senior right-hander allowed two hits in 4 2/3 innings of scoreless ball. Nevins wound up allowing just a run in 8 1/3 combined innings during the doubleheader.
Saturday was "Pack the Park" day at USF softball stadium with a total of 763 fans in attendance for game 2 while 30 former USF softball players also were on hand to support the current squad.
"For us to get two W's in front of the alumni and the crowd in place was great. Hopefully it just keeps getting better and better, and I think it will," Eriksen said.
The Bulls aim for a series sweep 1 p.m. Sunday during a special occasion at USF softball stadium. A bounce house and face painting will take place around the stadium as part of "Sunday Fun Day" along with the program recognizing its seniors in their final regular season home game.